Dermal Technology Laboratory Ltd, based at Keele University Science and Business Park, applied for the cash through Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub’s small business grant scheme.

The laboratory specialises in testing chemicals on skin, but the work is done in test tubes, instead of on animals or people. The vital work forms part of the safety testing of new and existing chemicals, agrochemicals, personal care, and pharmaceutical products.

Thanks to the grant, the company can now buy equipment for high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), a technique used to study each component in a mixture. The grant, which comes from the European Regional Development Fund, will help pay for the £24k equipment.

Managing director David Fox said: “The equipment allows us to test chemicals in the product, for example, a hair dye, and if the chemical penetrates the skin. We can look at how much of that chemical is in the sample we have prepared, compared to the product, and see if we have made a variant which is suitable for use.”

Mr Fox, 48, from Madeley Heath, said he wants to expand the business and hire four new staff this year, and the grant will allow him to create one of those jobs in the role of study director.

He said: “We work closely with Keele University and the Local Enterprise Partnership, and I was subscribed to the Growth Hub’s email newsletter, which is where I read about the grant scheme. The application was straight forward. We were really hoping to get this equipment and now that we have this money it will allow things to progress quickly.”

Nicola Kent, operational manager of the Growth Hub, said: “We are pleased to help Dermal Technology to buy new equipment, particularly in such an important field as chemical testing.

“The Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub would like to support more companies in the science and technology sector and would encourage anyone looking to grow their business to contact the Business Helpline for more information on 0300 111 8002.”

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